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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


By Steve Cooke

Damon Albarn opened his second night at this year’s Manchester International Festival with ‘I didn’t know if we would be able communicate our music to people after 18 months of playing to a closed circle’. It soon became clear that he and his wonderful band certainly could! We witnessed something truly special over the next couple of hours.

Along with the Arlo Parks gig the MIF have reaffirmed the efficacy of sharing creativity in sustaining wellbeing, promoting resilience, and enabling an outpouring of collective joy.

Shapeshifting being the outcome of Damon Albarn’s restless creative impatience since his cheeky chappie BLUR days, he has created a set that reveals song after song of introverted beauty. Songs that are the outcomes of his soul searching during his journey through the pandemic. Songs that slowly build layer by layer to exhilarating climaxes. Soundscapes emotively enhanced by a string quartet and underpinned by Femi Koleso’s drums, picking up the mantle of his mentor, the genius that was the late a much-lamented Tony Allen.

Songs on Damon’s upcoming album, The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows, were at the core of his set. Songs that were inspired by sitting out the pandemic in Iceland with its stark landscape and in Devon, on a beach looking at a ghost cruise ship sat, in useless isolation, waiting for normality to return. Damon’s creativity was ignited as he imagined a band playing on the ship, creating a soundtrack for them.

The songs are songs of the soul, existing in a wonderland of fragile melodies, sung by Damon with previously unmined vocal nuances explored and developed over the last 18 months.

At times Damon introspectively hunches over his keyboard, then strides from side to side of the stage randomly throwing some remarkable shapes. In between these hauntingly beautiful songs he regales us with asides and anecdotes covering a vividly entertaining, eclectic array of topics and characters. His schooldays, the Two Tone Movement in the 80’s, racism ‘It’s unacceptable’, the resemblance of the venue to the Blackpool Pier Theatre. Alan Carr, Michael Gove, Elton John, and Cliff Richard.

Damon even indulges in a bout of audience participation, taking us through the chanting of Chakras up to his newly invented one – the note of E. Chosen so that we can help him with his next song which starts with an E - he claims to have difficulty with hitting it.

The new studio album will be released 12 November 2021.

Damon says “I have been on my own dark journey while making this record and it led me to believe that a pure source might still exist.”


The tracklisting is as follows:

1. The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows

2. The Cormorant

3. Royal Morning Blue

4. Combustion

5. Daft Wader

6. Darkness To Light

7. Esja

8. The Tower Of Montevideo

9. Giraffe Trumpet Sea

10. Polaris

11. Particles

Alongside a digital release, there will be limited edition colour vinyl formats, plus CD and cassette. There will also be a deluxe version of the album, taking the form of a casebound book with additional photography, original scanned lyrics and artwork from Damon, alongside a clear vinyl version of the album, a high quality digital file and a bonus 7” featuring an exclusive song from the recording sessions.

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